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4 Mekong Countries Home to Groups Running Most Online Gambling Sites in Indonesia

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4 Mekong Countries Home to Groups Running Most Online Gambling Sites in Indonesia

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Police said that most of the online gambling sites accessible in Indonesia are controlled by operators based in the Greater Mekong Subregion, such as China, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The police also discovered that bookies deliberately employed citizens of Indonesia and other countries as operators to expand the market.

“The people behind it are mostly organized as this is a transnational crime operated by groups from countries in the Mekong region,” National Police International Relations chief Insp. Gen. Pol Krishna Murti said at a press conference in South Jakarta on Tuesday, June 25.

Khrisna said that the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of online gambling in the Mekong region due to mobility restrictions. During the investigation, it was discovered that individuals from other countries, including Indonesia, were hired as additional operators to expand the reach of the gambling market.

“They are carrying out operator activities organized by the mafia group that controls the gambling business,” Khrisna said.

Criminal syndicates in the Mekong countries are estimated to generate more than US$43.8 billion annually, nearly 40 percent of the combined GDP of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. In addition to online gambling, they facilitate human trafficking, help develop advanced digital technology for fraud, and provide services for money laundering.

The following is a brief look at the gambling situation in the Mekong countries.

  1. China

According to Business Insider, Gambling is illegal in most parts of China apart from the state-owned national lotteries. However there is a widespread practice of copycat websites that “mirror” established ones, by betting companies in countries that don’t allow gambling.

“It’s very, very common. China has an active online gambling presence,” Ben Lee, managing partner at IGamiX Management and Consulting in Macao, China, said on Sabtu, 22 Oktober.

Experts said it’s difficult to quantify the size of the market, but the People’s Bank of China estimated that money from betting-related activities flowing out of China was around US$54 billion in 2019.  

  1. Myanmar

Illegal online casino operators in Myanmar have reportedly diversified their businesses to include cyber fraud and cryptocurrency laundering controlled by armed groups.

According to a report by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Yatai New City, on the border of Myanmar and Thailand, has become a target of the Building Cities Beyond Blockchain (BCB Blockchain) project, which aims to become a place for clandestine money laundering. The gambling city project, built with a budget of US$15 billion, targets US$25 billion per year from gamblers in China.

  1. Laos

According to a report by the French Academic Network for Asian Studies (GIS Asie), the development of casinos in Laos has become a symbol of neoliberal transition. The aim is to attract foreign tourists, especially Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese, for whom gambling is strictly forbidden and punishable in their home countries.

  1. Cambodia

Since 1993, Cambodian casinos have sprung up in border towns such as Koh Kong, Pailin, Poipet, Chong Jom, Ha Tien and Sihanoukville. By 2014, the gambling industry had generated US$25 million in tax revenue, an increase of 15 percent per year.

Profits from cyber fraud in Cambodia are estimated to exceed US$12.5 billion per year or half of the country’s official GDP. Most of these profits reportedly go to the ruling elite.

MELYNDA DWI PUSPITA

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